They are most definitely not sheared … as you could probably guess from these pictures. 🙂 Watch this clip from Animal Planet and tell me if you’d brush a musk ox!
Their weight ranges anywhere from nearly 400 pounds (181 kg) to close to 900 pounds (400 kg); they can be close to 7 feet (over 2 m) long and measure 5 feet (1.5 m) tall at the shoulder.
A musk ox (pic from National Geographic), has a two-layered coat, and qiviut (an Innuit word and sometimes seen spelled as qiviuk) is the undercoat. Traditionally, each spring the native peoples collected the tuffs and clumps of qiviut shed by the musk oxen and/or caught on the underbrush of the arctic tundra. Musk oxen are not sheared, though I have seen videos of people brushing a musk ox who is kept snug inside small (and high) wooden enclosure. Qivuit is also obtained from the pelts of hunted musk oxen.
Interestingly, musk oxen have no musk glands and are not oxen; they are more closely related to goats and sheep. Musk oxen are ungulates (hooved mammals), ruminants (have 4-chambered stomachs and chew their cud [partially regurgitated food]) and eat a wide variety of foods such as lichens, grasses, and leaves.
For those who fear shrinking fine handmade woolens, try quivit! Quivit will not shrink at any temperature. Softer than cashmere and approximately 18 microns, it is stronger and 8 times warmer than sheep’s wool!
The downside is qiviut is very pricey. Thor gave me some 100% qivuit for my birthday one year that I knit into a lace triangle neck scarf. (He bought it from Paradise Fibers.) I make sure that is in my suitcase when I travel. If the temperature drops, the beautiful scarf wraps my neck in amazing warmth.